President Biden's 2023 State of the Union address

By Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury, Tori B. Powell, Amir Vera, Melissa Macaya and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 12:11 PM ET, Wed February 8, 2023
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11:12 p.m. ET, February 7, 2023

Fact check: Biden's claim on the child tax credit and the reduction of child poverty

From CNN’s Tami Luhby

In calling to revive the Democrats’ enhancement of the child tax credit in 2021, President Biden pointed to the fact that the provision helped slash the child poverty rate that year. 

“Let’s restore the full child tax credit, which gave tens of millions of parents some breathing room and cut child poverty in half, to the lowest level in history,” he said. 

Facts First: This is true. The child poverty rate was cut nearly in half in 2021, and the expanded child tax credit was the major factor. The enhancement accounted for the bulk of the reduction.  

The child poverty rate fell from 9.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2021, according to the US Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which takes into account certain non-cash government assistance, tax credits and needed expenses.  

That’s a reduction of 46%, sending the rate to the lowest level since the supplemental measure began in 2009. 

The child tax credit – both the traditional credit and the enhancement – reduced the child poverty rate from 9.2% to 5.2%, or 43%, according to the Census Bureau. Without the beefed-up credit, the rate would have only fallen from 9.2% to 8.1%, or 12%. 

As part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that passed in March 2021, Congress enhanced the child tax credit for one year, beefing up payments to $3,600 for each child up to age 6 and $3,000 for each one ages 6 through 17, for lower- and middle-income families. For the first time, half the credit was paid in monthly installments from July through December, while parents could claim the other half when they filed their 2021 taxes this year. 

Also, more low-income parents became eligible for the full amount because lawmakers made it fully refundable. 

11:46 p.m. ET, February 7, 2023

Biden advocates for renewal of assault weapons ban

President Joe Biden called for an assault weapons ban during his State of the Union address.

Biden made an impassioned plea to renew the assault weapons ban as he recognized heroic efforts by Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park shooting suspect last month in California and was invited to attend the address.

"Ban assault weapons now, once and for all. We did it before. I led the fight to ban them in 1994. In the 10 years the ban was law, mass shootings went down. After we let it expire in a Republican administration, mass shootings tripled. Let's finish the job and ban these assault weapons," Biden said.

Watch his remarks on gun violence, below:  

2:02 a.m. ET, February 8, 2023

Fact check: Biden's claim on democracy spreading 

From CNN’s Marshall Cohen

While touting his efforts to stand up to authoritarian leaders in China and Russia, President Biden painted himself as a champion of freedom and inaccurately claimed that democracy was spreading under his watch.  

“In the past two years, democracies have become stronger, not weaker,” Biden said. “Autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger.”  

Facts First: This claim is at odds with data from Freedom House, a leading nonprofit that tracks democracy and human rights around the world. They say democracy has been in global decline over the past few years.  

The group’s most recent annual report on the state of global democracy, released in February 2022, was aptly titled, “The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule.” Their 2021 report was called, “Democracy under Siege.”  

Getting into the data, Freedom House says 60 countries experienced democratic backsliding in the previous year, while only 25 countries improved their position. The group highlighted backsliding in Sudan, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, where the Taliban reclaimed power when Biden withdrew all American troops from the country.  

Freedom House’s most recent report is one year old, with a new report likely coming out soon. And to be fair, Biden could merely be expressing his view that autocratic regimes have lost prestige on the world stage.  

But the trends appear to be holding. For instance, after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last year, he initiated a domestic crackdown that rolled back the few remaining civil liberties that existed in Russia.  

Freedom House is largely funded by grants from the US government.  

10:55 p.m. ET, February 7, 2023

Sanders rebukes Biden's address and agenda: "Forgive me for not believing much of anything I heard tonight"

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, governor of Arkansas, waits to deliver the Republican response to President Biden's State of the Union address in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, governor of Arkansas, waits to deliver the Republican response to President Biden's State of the Union address in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuked President Joe Biden's State of the Union address and agenda in her GOP response.

"Being a mom to three young children taught me not to believe every story I hear. So forgive me for not believing much of anything I heard tonight from President Biden," Sanders said.

She continued, "From out of control inflation and violent crime to the dangerous border crisis and threat from China. Biden and the Democrats have failed you. They know it and you know it. And it is time for change."

2:02 a.m. ET, February 8, 2023

GOP Reps. Bob Good and Andy Ogles defend decision to heckle Biden

From CNN's Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona

GOP Rep. Bob Good told CNN that he was one of the hecklers who called out President Joe Biden as a “liar” — and said Biden deserved it for his comments about Republicans saying they want cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

"The president gave a very dishonest speech, he didn't take responsibility for the harm that he's caused the country, and in particular he was lying tonight when he said Republicans are calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare. He can't name the Republicans who are saying that ... because it's simply not true," Good said.

"I think the greater offense is for the president to lie to the American people about something so important," Good said on the optics of Republicans heckling the president.

Freshman Rep. Andy Ogles, a Tennessee Republican, also defended his comments in the chamber. Ogles shouted “it’s your fault” when Biden brought up fentanyl deaths.

“For him to stand there with a straight face, and tell us that he has a solution when with a stroke of a pen he could have shut down the border … that offends me,” Ogles said, linking fentanyl deaths to problems at the southern border. “He has not done a damn thing about it.” 

Asked whether he thought it was appropriate to heckle Biden during his speech, Ogles said it was just a “visceral response” and that a number of his GOP colleagues had also vocally pushed back on Biden.

“It just so happened, as they were getting quiet, I got louder, so my timing, cadence might have been slightly off,” he said.

McCarthy, who had urged his Republican members to be mindful of their behavior during the speech, was seen trying to shush members during that moment in the chamber.

11:17 p.m. ET, February 7, 2023

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is delivering the GOP response. Here are key things to know about her.

From CNN's Shawna Mizelle

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks while delivering the Republican response to President Biden's State of the Union address in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks while delivering the Republican response to President Biden's State of the Union address in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now delivering the Republican response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address.

In a statement announcing that Sanders will give the response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Sanders was a representative for a new generation of Republicans.

She gained national prominence when she served as White House press secretary under former President Donald Trump, but she was no stranger to politics with her father, Republican Mike Huckabee, serving as governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007.

Sanders worked for two years in the George W. Bush administration and later ran her father’s 2008 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and then was campaign manager for his 2016 White House bid.

She made history last year as the first woman elected as governor of Arkansas.

Within 48 hours of being sworn in as governor, Sanders signed a flurry of executive orders, with one targeting critical race theory “to prohibit indoctrination” in schools and another banning the use of the term “Latinx” in official state documents.

2:47 a.m. ET, February 8, 2023

Parents of Tyre Nichols receive extended standing ovation in emotional moment on policing

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

RowVaughn Wells, center, mother of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers, and her husband Rodney Wells, second left, are recognized by President Joe Biden as he delivers his State of the Union speech.
RowVaughn Wells, center, mother of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers, and her husband Rodney Wells, second left, are recognized by President Joe Biden as he delivers his State of the Union speech. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The parents of Tyre Nichols received an extended standing ovation during the State of the Union address, marking an emotional moment for police reform during the president’s prime-time address. 

“Public safety depends on public trust. But too often that trust is violated,” Biden said. “Joining us tonight are the parents of Tyre Nichols, who had to bury him just last week.”

RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, who came as first lady Jill Biden's guests, stood up and received bipartisan applause.

“There are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a child. But imagine what it’s like to lose a child at the hands of the law,” he added. 

Biden sought to use his remarks to make the case for police reform, using the bully pulpit as his advisers said he would, to pressure Congress into getting something passed though reform faces an uncertain path.

The president spoke of his own privilege of not needing to have “the talk,” with his children, that “so many Black and Brown families have had with their children.

Bipartisan support for his remarks began building when Biden touched on the shared values members have for public safety.

“Just as every cop who pins on that badge in the morning has the right to be able to go home at night, so does everybody else out there," he said, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy joined in on the applause.

“What happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better. Give law enforcement the real training they need,” he said. “Hold on to higher standards. Help them succeed in keeping us safe.”

Biden received another standing ovation when he said, “cops are good people."

Nichols' parents stood up to applaud when Biden said, “when police officers or police departments violate the public trust, they must be held accountable.” A tear was visible on RowVaughn Wells’ face.

Biden erroneously called Tyre “Tyler,” but called on Congress to commit themselves to making her words come true: “Something good must come from this.”

In a statement after the president's speech, the NAACP said Black Americans need "more than words."

"We demand action. Black America is grieving and continues to experience profound injustice at the hands of our nation’s broken systems. Far too many Black people have lost their lives due to police violence and yet I cannot name a single law that has been passed to address this issue," wrote Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. "While President Biden signed an executive order, we still need strong policies signed into law that will finally end the horrors of police brutality and hold officers accountable for their misconduct."
10:44 p.m. ET, February 7, 2023

A look at Marjorie Taylor Greene's behavior during the State of the Union

From CNN's Manu Raju

Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene listens and reacts as President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech.
Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene listens and reacts as President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Marjorie Taylor Greene repeatedly yelled back at President Joe Biden throughout the speech — on everything from his comments on fentanyl to entitlement cuts.

She yelled out “liar” at Biden over suggesting some Republicans wanted cuts to Medicare to Social Security.

She also stayed seated when Biden introduced Tyre Nichols’ parents and the Ukraine ambassador.

1:03 a.m. ET, February 8, 2023

White House official on Biden: "He gets energy from his audience"

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

White House officials are thrilled by the off-script back and forth between President Joe Biden and Republicans. 

“Couldn’t have written a better moment,” one official said.

More than the substantive back and forth, one official notes how it appeared to animate Biden in real time

“He gets energy from his audience,” the official said. It’s not a new view on how Biden operates — his advisers constantly talk about how he finds his energy from engaging with people 

But to watch it happen during the speech, on the biggest prime-time stage of the year, was a moment White House officials are basking in right now.

Some background: The president was speaking about the national debt – a debt he said took “200 years to accumulate,” but was increased by 25% under the last administration. 

“Those are the facts, check it out,” Biden said, as boos and chatter started in the chamber. “Check it out!” he continued over the ruckus. 

Democrats cheered while Republicans quieted. But when the president accused some Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, the protests erupted again.  Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green appeared to stand and shout, “you lie.” 

The White House has repeatedly accused Republicans of wanting to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare, but McCarthy explicitly said recently that those cuts were off the table. 

The president said he was “glad to see” the reaction, adding, “I enjoy conversion.”